Frontiers of Democracy: Exploring the Past and Looking to the Future

The Montana State University Billings Library is pleased to announce its spring lecture series, “Frontiers of Democracy: Exploring the Past and Looking to the Future.”

The weekly four-part series takes place Tuesday evenings, at 6:30 p.m., beginning March 21, and are held in Library Room 148 on the University Campus. 

The public is invited to attend the series, which is free of charge.

“We’re excited for the Library Lecture Series because they are so well received by the community,” said Interim Director Megan Thomas. “Plus, coming out of an election year, the topics to be discussed are very timely.”

Dr. Nisha Bellinger, assistant professor of political science, said the series is a great way to explore many areas of research on democracy.

“I wanted to engage our faculty across disciplines in the lecture series to provide the audience with a robust understanding of democracy- its origin, meaning and current trends,” said Bellinger. 

The series opens on March 21, with a presentation by Dr. Tom Rust, MSUB Associate Professor of History. His talk, “Full of variety and disorder: The birth and death and rebirth of Ancient Athenian Democracy” explores the origins of Athenian democracy. Rust will also look at how this system compares to what we call democracy in the United States, and how Athens’ initial experiment with democracy failed during the Peloponnesian War but was later reborn with greater moderation.

Rust is a native of Montana with a BA in History and Classical Studies from the University of Minnesota, an MA in History from the University of Denver, and M.Ed. from MSUB and a Ph.D. in archaeology and ancient history from the University of Leicester.  He has taught at MSUB since 1999.

On March 28, MSUB Assistant Professor of Political Science Dr. Paul Pope presents, “American Democracy and the Rise of the Alt-Right.”

Pope says the heart of his lecture is the concept of “othering.”

“Sometimes, you hear about this phenomenon as ‘us versus them,’ he said. “I’m looking at a very specific kind of othering, an othering in support of, or to expand the security state.”

Pope asks the question “is the Alt-Right fascism by another name?” He will investigate the narratives of the Alt-Right, and their meaning, they voiced during the 2016 election as well as their own expressed worldview in social media. Pope will contrast the Alt-Right ideology and expressed beliefs with other historical studies of fascist ideology.

“The other (area) I am focusing on is the narrative attacks on minorities, media, immigrants, and some foreign governments as justification for a large and all-powerful security state,” he said.

Pope has been with MSUB since 2012. He teaches courses in American government, public law, and public administration. His research areas include power, constitutional law, and political/policy narratives. He has previously published with Law and Society journal, Administration and Society journal, and Cengage Researcher.

Bellinger will present, “The Global Spread of Democracy in the Post-WWII Era,” on April 4.

The lecture traces the global spread of democracy since World War II and analyzes the quality of democracy across regions. Bellinger said her objective will be to help the audience understand the factors that influence democracy and identify the differences between democracies globally.

“My talk will focus on global trends in democracy,” she said. “I will discuss the differences or similarities of democracy, and highlight current developments such as the Arab Spring.”

Bellinger earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Missouri in 2012. She teaches courses in Comparative Politics, International Relations, and American Government.  Her research focuses on political economic themes. Her research has been published in Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research, European Political Science Review, International Political Science ReviewJournal of International Relations and Development, Journal of Politics, and Party Politics.

MSUB Professor of Sociology Dr. Joy Honea will present the final lecture in the series on April 11. Honea’s presentation, “Nasty Women: The Political Becomes Personal,” looks at how the 2016 presidential election galvanized thousands of American women for a variety of reasons.

“This talk examines the factors contributing to current political activism among (mainly) progressive women and imagines the possible outcomes of this emerging movement,” she said.

Honea earned her Ph.D. from Colorado State University in 2004. Her dissertation work focused on the commodification of action sports. She teaches in the areas of the sociology of sport, the sociology of health and medicine, women’s and gender studies and social theory. Her research focuses primarily on the sociology of mental illness and the sociology of gender. She is working on a co-authored paper on the medicalization of mental illness and serves on the social science research team for a National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant through MSU Bozeman focusing on the advancement of women faculty in the sciences.

A light reception follows each lecture.

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